The Abia State Governorship Election Petitions Tribunal sitting in Umuahia on Tuesday upheld the declaration of Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu as governor of the state by the Independent National Electoral Commission.
In an 85-minute judgment delivered by the Chairman, Hon. Justice Usman Bwala, the tribunal said the petitioners, Dr. Alex Otti and his party, the All Progressives Grand Alliance, did not prove their claim to have won the election “beyond doubt”.
Bwala said the petitioners had on the one hand urged the court to nullify the election on grounds that it was marred by irregularities and massive fraud and on the other hand, sought that they should be declared winners of the same election.
He said the petitioners reckoned with the card reader as a means of accreditation during the election of April 11, but failed to countenance with the voter register.
The tribunal further refused to grant the petitioners’ request for it to uphold the cancellation of the results of the election in Obingwa, Osisioma and Isiala-Ngwa North Local Government Areas of the state.
Bwala said the State Returning Officer, Prof. Benjamin Ozumba, was not allowed under the law to cancel the said results in the first place, hence the subsequent reversal by him had no effect.
He said the onus lay heavily on the petitioners to prove beyond doubt that they won the election as they claimed in their petition.
The tribunal chairman, therefore, dismissed the petition because of the failure of the petitioners to convince the tribunal beyond doubt that they won the election.
The News Agency of Nigeria reports that Otti had urged the tribunal to annul the declaration of Ikpeazu as governor, saying that the election was marred by irregularities and substantial non-compliance with the Electoral Act.
He, however, urged the tribunal to declare him the winner on account of the lawful votes cast during the election.
He also asked the tribunal to uphold Ozumba’s cancellation of the results for Obingwa, Osisioma and Isiala-Ngwa North LGAs.
He said Ozumba, having cancelled the results, did not have the power to cancel the result and reverse himself, adding that only the tribunal had the power to reverse the cancellation.
Reacting to the judgment, Counsel to the petitioners, Ndionyenma Nwankwo, said the legal team would study the judgment and decide on the next line of action to take.
Counsels to Ikpeazu and his party, the Peoples Democratic Party, Chubuike Nwokeukwu and Haggler Okorie, commended the tribunal for its judgment.
They described it as sound and founded on law.